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31 Aug 2015
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Liberia is hoping to continue its impressive run against Tunisia's Coach Henry Kasperczak and the former African Champions on September 5, 2015 Afcon qualifier in Monrovia 

Monrovia – With four FIFA World Cups and the impressive history of becoming only the first African team to win a world cup duel - a famous 3-1 1978 victory over Mexico, the Eagles of Carthage, better known as Tunisia arrive in Monrovia this week to take on the underdogs, Liberia’s Lone Star in their first round, first leg African Cup of Nations qualifier at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium. The Eagles also won the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations when the hosted the tournament.

Bearing a sudden trip down memory lane to 1989 when James Debbah’s 45th minute goal gave Liberia a 1-0 victory over North African giants, Egypt; or nearly a decade later when George Weah’s goal also gave Liberia a famous 1-0 victory over the Pharoah’s, Liberia could be in for a lot of trouble when head coach Henry Kasperczak, who recently replaced the Belgian Georges Leekens, leads a star-studded lineup to face Liberia.

Kasperczak,69, formerly coached Mali in the last Afcon tournament. He previously coach the Tunisians for four years from 1994, leading them to runners-up at the 1996 Nations Cup where they lost to hosts South Africa in the final. The former Polish international has also coached the Ivory Coast, Morocco and Senegal. Kasperczak is coming off a difficult spell having failed to take Mali beyond the first stage of the Afcon tournament in Equatorial Guinea, despite being unbeaten. The Eagles finished tied with Guinea in Group D but were eliminated after the drawing of lots to separate the teams. For Liberia, the Polish has named a 23-player squad for the duel against Liberia.

The players are: Aymen Mathlouthi (Etoile du Sahel), Farouk Ben Mustapha (C. Africain), Moez Ben Cherifia (Esperance ST), Aymen Abdennour (AS Monaco, France), Ghazi Abderrazak (ES Sahel), Mohamed Amine Ben Amor (ES Sahel), Selim Ben Jemia (CS Sfaxien), Fakhreddine Ben Youssef (Espérance ST), Syam Ben Youssef (SM Caen, France), Alaya Brigui (ES Sahel), Zied Boughattas (ES Sahel), Amine Chermiti (FC Zurich), Yassine Chikhaoui (Al-Gharafa, Qatar), Ammar Jemal (ES Sahel), Sabeur Khelifa (C.Africain), Wahbi Khazri (Bordeaux, France), Hamza Lahmar (ES Sahel), Hamza Mathlouthi (CA Bizertin), Mohamed Methnani (Al-Jaich, Qatar), Youssef Msakni (Lekhwiya, Qatar), Mohamed Ali Moncer (CS SFaxien), Hamdi Nagguez (ES Sahel) and Houcine Ragued (Esperance ST). Reserve players: Achraf Krir (ES Zarzis), Ali Machani (Esperance ST), Yessine Meriah (CS Sfaxien) and Maher Hannachi (CS Sfaxien).

In calling the likes of Aymen Abdennour, a central defender who plies his trade with AS Monaco in Lique 1; Mohamed Amine Chermiti, a striker with Swiss side FC Zurich and Wahbi Khazri, a French-born Tunisian also in Lique 1 witih FC Bordeaux, Kasperczak is taking nothing for granted. Abdennour, the central defender who could give Coach James Debbah’s boys headaches.

Abdennour has risen from the Tunisian domestic league to win 33 caps for his country, scoring one goal and previously captained the Under 21 squad. Although Abdennour’s preferred position is a left winger, it is his defensive prowess that has drawn him to prominence and the attention of German side SV Werder Bremen which recruited him in 2009.

Abdennour started his career at Etoile Sportive du Sahel in 2008 where he was a fan favorite despite being one of the youngest players in the team. In the 2008–09 season he scored five goals for his club, but they missed on the title and finished third. Abdennour signed a four year contract with Lique 1 side Toulouse in 2011 but switched to Monaco on a loan deal in 2012. After impressing during a loan spell, he signed a four-year deal with Monaco on 4 July 2014. Kasperczak has also called Chermiti, who has been mentioned as one of the top African players in recent years.

Despite Tunisia’s rich history, holding West Germany to a goalless draw after beating Mexico at the ’78 World Cup and boasting successive qualifications at three World Cups - 1998, 2002 and 2006 – becoming the only African team to appear at both the 2002 and 2006 tournaments, Liberia has had the edge over Tunisia in recent years.

In head-to-head match-ups, the two countries have played eight times, with Liberia winning four, drawing two and losing two. Bookmakers are however unsure how well Liberia will perform given the team’s lack of adequate preparations and fitness in the aftermath of the deadly Ebola outbreak.

Head-To-Head: How Liberia Has Fared Against Tunisia

Liberia is placed in Group A alongside Tunisia, Togo, and Djibouti. The team made an impressive post-Ebola return to football, scoring through William Jebor three minutes before intermission against Togo before Tottenham Hotspur forward, Emmanuel Adebayor, snatched the winner three minutes from time after Sadat Ouro-Akoriko had equalized shortly after the hour.

The last time Liberia competed at the African Cup of Nations was in the 2002 edition in Mali. More than a decade later, the hopes of a nation have been deflated amid a string poor results and the lack of commitment from the national government to invest in the national team.  An impressive, if not a winning performance against the Eagles of Carthage, football analysts say, could change the outlook and perhaps government’s commitment toward a team yet to rediscover its pre-war form when the Weah-Debbah generation was at its peak and came close to World Cup qualification.


Last modified on Monday, 31 August 2015 16:06
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